The talk of police reforms, especially the September 22 judgment of the Supreme Court, has masked the much more vital need for the police higher-ups to undertake in-house cleansing.

"Top brass concern over bad apples in the (police) force Reports of lower level officers involved in crimes on the rise Central Crime Branch Wing comes in for severe criticism for corruption, favouritism." "Assistant Commissioner of Police convicted for murder and sentenced to death by hanging." These are some recent media headlines depicting the situation in various States.

Just a few days ago, there was a news item of the depredations of a constable on the beat on a popular beach in collusion with chain-snatchers. There is no dearth of reports of policemen themselves turning burglars and robbers. Almost every issue of popular magazines in all languages is replete with biting cartoons and lampoons portraying the police as the most venal of all government agencies.

No paragons

On the other hand, the number of cases pertaining to police officials for criminal offences, including disproportionate assets and corruption, was conspicuously lower than in all other departments, as per statistics collected by me in 1980 as Member-Secretary of the L. P. Singh Committee to recommend measures for revamping the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the light of the findings on their misconduct during the Emergency of 1975-77 contained in the report of the Justice J. C. Shah Commission!

Even these days, news items of raids in houses of higher police officials, or traps set up for them, or arrests for corruption and disproportionate assets are few and far between. Since it cannot be that black sheep only crowd the other departments, and the police comprises paragons, one can only surmise that with respect to their own kind, the police personnel are prone to follow a `dog-does-not-eat-dog' policy and prefer to look the other way at the crimes and misdemeanours of their colleagues.

The talk of police reforms, especially the September 22 judgment of the Supreme Court, has masked the much more vital need for the police higher-ups to undertake in-house cleansing.

Actually, the reforms are mostly about making the functioning of the police more effective and insulating it from political and extraneous pressures in the discharge of their duty.

Whereas what is at stake, thanks to what is perceived as the want of sustained and purposeful efforts at in-house cleansing, is the image of the police in the eyes of the people as a wayward, corrupt and oppressive arm of the state.

Special national meet

There are essentially four areas in which the top functionaries in the police department can set things right if only they go about them with zeal and vigour and by themselves setting an example.

The first is the establishment of cordial relations of mutual trust with the people. The uniform should be seen as the badge of service to the people and not as a licence for arrogantly lording it over them as if they are some inferior breed. To the extent such a tendency persists, the training is obviously deficient.

The second is to take prompt and deterrent action on complaints of custodial deaths and police brutality and make the result known to the public.

The third is the ruthless weeding out of corrupt elements, by adopting summary procedure. And the fourth is focussing on the core functions of the police law and order, investigation of crimes, ensuring security and not fritter away energies on moral policing and `social offences'.

If necessary, a special national meet should be convened to take up measures for in-house cleansing along these and other lines and monitor their implementation within a specified time schedule.

B. S. RAGHAVAN

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 22, 2006)
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